We found women released from prison were 16 times more likely to die from violence than women of the same age in the general population. Although the vast majority of people in prison in Australia are men, women who experience incarceration are particularly vulnerable to violence.
The number of women, particularly Indigenous women, in Australian prisons is increasing. It is estimated that between 57% and 90% of women in prison have been victims of violence.
Women who have been to prison should be a priority group for violence prevention. They need enhanced transitional support when leaving prison to secure safe housing, employment and access to mental health, alcohol and other drug services.
[D]uring times of crisis—such as natural disasters, wars, and epidemics—the risk of gender-based-violence escalates. In China, the number of domestic violence cases reported to the local police tripled in February compared to the previous year, according to Axios. Activists say this is a result of enforced lockdown.
“We know that domestic violence is rooted in power and control,” says Ray-Jones. “Right now, we are all feeling a lack of control over our lives and an individual who cannot manage that will take it out on their victim.” She says that while the number of abuse cases may not rise during the coronavirus crisis, people who were already in an abusive situation will likely find themselves facing more extreme violence, and can no longer escape by going to work or seeing friends.
The current crisis also makes it more difficult for victims to seek help.
For many women, even the fear of contracting the coronavirus is stopping them from seeking out medical care after experiencing physical abuse.
Many victims also feel that they can no longer seek refuge at their parents’ home, for fear that they could expose their elderly parents to the virus.
Almost 20 volunteers with the Court Network will no longer have the resources to assist domestic violence victims in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court after $130,000 was cut from Victorian Legal Aid and assistance rejected by the federal government.
Established in 1980, and placed in family courts in 1990, Court Network provided free, non-legal support. Prior to being cut in Queensland last year, the network helped more than 205,000 court users. Across 37 locations in Victoria and Queensland, volunteers contributed collectively at least 129,600 hours, equivalent of 65 full-time positions.
The Law Council of Australia has called for the abandonment of a federal parliamentary inquiry into the family law system, citing concerns that the hearings are “being used for political purposes” to undermine domestic violence claims made by women.
The Law Council president, Pauline Wright, has written to the chair of the inquiry, Liberal MP Kevin Andrews, to formally complain about the live broadcast on the hearings by One Nation last week.
“What is of most concern to the Law Council is that some of the evidence given, mainly by women, has been the subject of scorn and denigrating comment on the One Nation Facebook sites.
“As well, lawyers from women’s organisations were the subject of particularly negative commentary. Comments include that women lawyers are ‘bitches’, ‘evil’, ‘snakes’, and ‘fugly’.
“As well as some generally offensive comments, many of the comments perpetuate discredited notions about domestic violence; for example, denying that the vast preponderance of domestic violence is perpetrated by men upon women and that women are ‘liars’. The Law Council is particularly concerned that this commentary may incite or excuse domestic violence.”
Zoe Rathus, an expert on family law and domestic violence at Griffith University, told the inquiry the legislated presumption of equal shared parental responsibility had proved “extremely dangerous” and acted to prevent people from airing allegations of domestic violence in the family court.
“Hannah Clarke was allowing Baxter to see the children on a regular basis,” Rathus said. “[The presumption in favour of equal shared parental responsibility] would have been part of all of the information that she will have been given. It would have been almost impossible for her to have resisted doing that.
“And if she had, it would have been very possible for him to accuse her of being an alienator, particularly as this is not a case that would have been described as aggressive violence. We know that family violence can be most dangerous when it isn’t necessarily aggressive.”
The international researcher into domestic violence, Dr Cris Sullivan finds that specialist domestic violence refuges are the most effective way of supporting women and children.
Millions of dollars are poured into perpetrator programs and available evidence shows a 90 per cent failure rate in changing violent and controlling behaviour.
The network of refuges across NSW dismantled in 2014 by the current LNP must be restored and recurrently funded.
If I was Premier of a State, or Chief Minister of a Territory, I would close all youth prisons immediately. I’d decriminalise minor, non-violent offences, such as public nuisance and drug possession charges, which account for the vast majority of women prisoners. Trauma is the other key contributor to criminalisation of women, with the vast majority of women prisoners having survived violence. I’d outlaw re-traumatising practices routinely practiced in Australian women’s prisons, particularly strip searching and solitary confinement. I’d ensure domestic violence legislation was gendered (for example, since de-gendered legislation was introduced, breach of DVO’s has joined the top ten reasons for women’s imprisonment in Queensland!) And, I’d outlaw mandatory sentences which do not allow the judiciary to make judgements based on the wider context of an offence. Once prisons emptied, I would close them one by one.
Coercive control is a very particular kind of domestic abuse. It’s not a “reaction” to stress, nor is it triggered by alcohol or drugs. It’s an ongoing system of control, in which the abusive partner seeks to override their partner’s autonomy and destroy their sense of self. The end game – whether the perpetrator knowingly sets out to achieve it – is to make their partner entirely subordinate; a “willing slave”. To do this, they isolate, micro-manage, humiliate, degrade, surveil, gaslight and create an environment of confusion, contradiction and extreme threat.
A new UN report has found at least 90% of men and women hold some sort of bias against females.
The “Gender Social Norms” index analysed biases in areas such as politics and education in 75 countries.
Globally, close to 50% of men said they had more right to a job than women. Almost a third of respondents thought it was acceptable for men to hit their partners.
There are no countries in the world with gender equality, the study found.
Sunday 8 March is International Women’s Day. This is a day when we celebrate women’s achievements, while calling out inequality. But with the murders of Hannah Clarke and her children still fresh in our minds, it’s hard to feel there is much to celebrate.
Jaime Evans, Director of the Women’s March, joined The Daily to tell us about the March planned for International Women’s Day.